Actress Lucy Liu visits UNICEF project in Moscow
By Elizabeth Kiem
MOSCOW, Russia, 25 February 2008 – UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Lucy Liu is a woman of many talents. The world-famous actress is also a musician, a martial artist and, of course, a pre-eminent advocate for children. Last week in Moscow, she demonstrated her artistic skills as well, during a visit to ‘Maria’s Children,’ a unique art studio in the city’s centre.
The young artists at the studio are all orphans, or have otherwise been abandoned by their parents.
“I’ve lost track of time” said Ms. Liu while at the studio. “The children came in and we started painting and drawing and cutting out all of these incredible images of birds and churches and castles and flying horses. If you asked me what time it was I wouldn’t even know, because when you’re with children it totally takes you out of what real time is.”
Maria’s Children is run by artist Maria Yeliseeva and has been a second home to thousands of children over the past 14 years. In a country where nearly 200,000 children live in institutions providing the minimum of custodial care, the studio is a beacon of hope.
More than just drawing
Annual art auctions help finance additional projects and trips for the children. Additionally, private funding and grants from UNICEF have allowed groups from Maria’s Children to embark on ambitions greater than murals.
Children from the centre regularly visit local hospices and hospitals, where they entertain young patients with clown and magic shows. Last year, students travelled to Italy, where they practised the Italian they have learned at the studio. They also travelled to Beslan in southern Russia, where they met with children who are still recovering from the tragic school siege of 2004.
“It’s not all about drawing,” said Ms. Yeliseeva. “We give them the ability to help someone else and expand their worldview.”
‘Life is full of joy’
UNICEF Russia advocates early intervention for vulnerable families to help reduce the high rate of abandonment in the country.
“In orphanages, you don’t know what family life is,” said Alexei Stroyev, an alumnus of the studio who left the state orphanage system at age 18. “Here, you get that. You come together with people like yourself to socialize and learn. Life is full of joy.”
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Lucy Liu talks about her visit to ‘Maria’s Children’ art studio in Moscow.